256 feels public support

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

MORAN — USD 256 board members, their budget already cut to the quick, asked 60 patrons who came to a special meeting Wednesday night for help in dealing with potential reductions.
State aid to Marmaton Valley was cut $170,000 in November, and a loss of $108,000 spring 2009.
The scramble to make ends meet left board members eager to be prepared in case additional state aid reductions occur, which USD 256 Superintendent Nancy Meyer fears.
“If we get cut again before the end of the semester, it will be ugly,” Meyer said. Meyer said some classes, such as wood shop, art and music, might have to be abandoned. She also mentioned staff cuts and reshaping sports programs.
Before taking comments, Meyer outlined what led to the school finance quagmire that districts now face, noting how tax cuts and the recession combined to create revenue shortfalls in Topeka.
Marmaton Valley’s general operating budget at the start of the school year was nearly $3.6 million.
“About 80 percent of our budget goes to payroll,” Meyer said, noting any further cost-saving measures likely will touch people.
With that in mind, Susan Booth asked whether it would be possible to consolidate school districts and have one administrative team oversee the schools in Moran, Uniontown and Colony.
“That’s something we could talk about in the future,” Meyer said.
Enrollment fees and putting athletics on a pay-to-play basis also were discussed. Meyer didn’t discount enrollment fees but said they wouldn’t have great effect.
“We have 380 students. If they all paid a $20 enrollment fee, that’s $7,600,” she said. “An average teacher’s salary here is $40,000.”
Discussion of summer school immediately elicited a chorus of support. Meyer said she would hate to see it discontinued.
Summer school permits high school students to catch up on and complete work in core subjects. In some cases it has meant the difference between graduating and not. Elementary summer school keeps students from falling behind, particularly in reading, during the summer break.
“I don’t want to cut anything that directly impacts education,” Meyer said.
USD 256 also shouldn’t cut programs that neighboring districts offer and risk losing students to those districts, several people said. Sports, in particular, were mentioned.
If, say, Moran dropped baseball and softball, students who wished to play those sports might go elsewhere. That’s when several chimed in saying they would be willing to help defray costs.
Several people suggested Marmaton Valley should find out what other districts were doing and replicate what works.
Meyer was asked if there was any danger of Marmaton Valley schools being closed.
“No,” was her immediate response. “We have 380 students today and had 320 four years ago.”
Kathy Ward, a former teacher, said she was opposed to any cuts that threatened academics. “If you cut academics, you put kids behind for their lifetime,” she said. As for extracurricular cuts meaning lost enrollment, Ward doubted if that was a valid argument, since all districts are facing similar financial pressures.
John Booth said academics went beyond core subjects, that woodworking and agriculture classes prepare students for a lifetime of work.
“I want to put my hat in for sports,” Deb Tynon said. “We have an overweight and unhealthy population in Allen County and being active in important. Sports keep kids active.”

“EVERYTHING we’re doing is important to someone,” Board President Patti Boyd said. “We have a good thing going in Moran and the board doesn’t want to cut anything. This is scary. It’s our kids, our future, the heart of our community that we’re talking about.”
Boyd also said she and other board members were pleased with positive and informative suggestions they heard.
Board members will meet again Monday night in another special session.